|Admiral Blair Says Intelligence Sharing Helps Fight Terrorism |
Admiral Blair Says Intelligence Sharing Helps Fight Terrorism
Asian nations are working hard to share intelligence information in the fight against terrorism, says Admiral Dennis C. Blair, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command. "The exchange of intelligence among countries in the region is unprecedented," he told journalists at a November 27 roundtable held at the National Resiliency Institute in Jakarta, Indonesia. Source: Washington File (EUR315) U.S. Department of State. November 28, 2001.
"The countries here in the Pacific have been pulling together to make sure that we can support that campaign" against terrorism, he said.
He noted that Japan is providing ships that provide logistics support to U.S. Pacific ships. The Korean Air Force is providing transport aircraft and a Navy ship to help haul supplies for the U.S. military involved in the anti-terrorism campaign, the admiral said. "There's also been other logistics support from other countries here in Southeast Asia," he said.
Blair said Indonesia "has to be concerned about international terrorists coming here and setting up operations," noting the country's large size and many islands, vulnerability to illegal migration, and the activities of smugglers.
Indonesian officials he has spoken with have agreed to combat terrorists by sharing intelligence information and "strengthening the work we do together," Blair said.
While there are a number of areas in which the United States can help Indonesia in the war against terrorism, Blair said, "I think the Indonesian armed forces and security forces have a lot of capability to do the job here."
Following is a transcript of the event: (begin transcript)
United States Pacific Command Transcript: Admiral Dennis C. Blair Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command, Journalists Roundtable, Lemhannas, National Resiliency Institute Jakarta, Indonesia, November 27, 2001.
Admiral Blair: Let me take two of those minutes to tell you what I've been doing here in Indonesia.
It's been about a two-day visit. I've met with Indonesian officials, the President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Coordinating Minister Bambang Yudhoyono, with Admiral Widodo and some of his staff in TNI, and then, of course, here at Lemhannas.
I'm on a trip through the Asia region talking with about six countries, and in addition to keeping in touch on the many bilateral regional issues that we have, and this is my fourth visit to Indonesia, the focus on the campaign against terrorism has been a major topic.
As I said in my remarks just now, here in the Asia Pacific region there is really unanimous agreement by the government that we need to go against this threat together, but each country is somewhat different in terms of what it can do and what its policies are. So I've been talking with my military counterparts about what we can do together to eliminate this threat to all of our societies, and the discussions here in Indonesia have been good and fruitful, and there's certainly a commitment by Indonesia to attack this threat which the leaders here feel is in its interest and something that it must go against.
Let me stop there and take questions from you.
Question: Admiral, We've been told in the past that al Qaeda has links to organizations here. Do you see that link?
Admiral Blair: You're going to find that I'm not going to... It's going to be frustrating because I'm not going to give you detailed intelligence estimates on what we are talking with the Indonesians about or tell you publicly exactly what I think about each group and its presence. But I will tell you this. A country like Indonesia, large, subject to illegal migration, the activity of smugglers of various kinds, with many islands in which security and law and order is a tough proposition, Indonesia has to be concerned about international terrorists coming here and setting up operations here, and I discussed that with those I called on in Indonesia and they agreed. They also agreed that the way to work against that is by the exchanges of and comparison of intelligence information, strengthening the work we do together, and we're going to be doing that.
In addition some of the historical ties of some people in the Southeast Asia region and Indonesia in particular, the connection with Afghanistan is known. There was a Southeast Asia brigade which fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Some came from Indonesia. They've returned. So there's plenty of material that leads all of us to believe, including Indonesians, that they need to pursue any leads about international terrorists here in addition to their own law and order concerns.
Question: Up to now the U.S. has been reluctant to share pieces of information both with Indonesia and also Malaysia because of fears that it might fall into the wrong hands. Has that attitude changed at all?
Admiral Blair: Yes. The exchange of intelligence among countries in the region is unprecedented.
I would also add that the exchange of intelligence between organizations within governments is much greater than it was before. For instance in the United States our exchange of our military intelligence with FBI investigations is much deeper than it was before. And in Malaysia, in Indonesia, in the Philippines, in Thailand, we are all comparing and exchanging information to a much greater extent than we were before.
In any information exchange there is the consideration of protecting sources and methods; there is the consideration of comparing information so that you can confirm it. It's not a bright and shining line on the middle of the page, it's more of a gradation. Virtually all countries are leaning more towards the share side of that gradation than they were before and that's good.
Question: Richard Gaupin from BBC. Can I just follow up? Are you assuming that anyone who was in that brigade in Afghanistan in 1980 is therefore a potential terrorist and therefore...
Admiral Blair: Oh, come on, Richard. No. Next question?
Question: Has the United States also made a new commitment regarding payment programs with the TNI? So far we have heard from higher individuals of the TNI that the government keeps promising but never realizes. Thank you.
Admiral Blair: IMET is one of the programs that will not be resumed with Indonesia until the full accountability reforms which the TNI is pursuing have been completed. So IMET for military officers is not taking place now.
Education of Indonesian civilian defense officials in the United States has been offered, but not as military officers.
Question: During your meeting with Bambang Yudhoyono did he affirm Indonesia's willingness to participate in a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, did he express Indonesia's willingness to you personally?
Admiral Blair: He said that Indonesia would be willing to participate in principle, as would any country. He said that when the UN request came they would have to study the conditions and the missions to ensure that Indonesia could supply a capability that was suitable for the mission, but in principle he said that Indonesia was willing to provide forces to a UN organization, peacekeeping organization in Afghanistan.
Question: What were the terms of condition of the peacekeeping force? Thank you.
Admiral Blair: The conditions he said were that the government and the military staff would conduct an analysis of the request, as I said, to ensure that it was suitable and that the Indonesian forces provided could do what they were asked to do and have the right capabilities. So it was the sort of prudent analysis that any of us does when we provide forces for a UN force.
Question: Jerry Norton from Reuters. Just going to Afghanistan for a minute, there's been criticism that in Afghanistan itself, while the United States has been asking for support from everyone, the national military campaign has been very much totally a U.S.-run show without that much sharing of either planning or intelligence there and there's some resentment by U.S. allies, especially the Europeans. Any comment on that?
Admiral Blair: No. (Laughter) The military campaign is being conducted by General Franks the Central Command commander. We have Pacific Command forces that are involved -- two carrier battle groups, a Navy amphibious ready group with Marine expeditionary forces on it, Air Force reconnaissance aircraft that all came from the Pacific. But the conduct of the campaign is in the Central Command.
As far as cooperation in the Pacific Command, though, there are some specifics which are going quite well. The most unusual is the support by the Japanese Self Defense Forces. Japan is providing ships which provide logistics support to U.S. Pacific ships. The Korean Air Force is providing transport aircraft and a Navy ship to help haul supplies that we need in the campaign. There's also been other logistics support from other countries here in Southeast Asia.
So in addition to that in the Central Command, the countries here in the Pacific have been pulling together to make sure that we can support that campaign.
Question: Jason Betas of Time Magazine. I just wanted to ask, how capable do you think the Indonesian military is in attacking the terrorist threat here given that they probably could use some help from the U.S. military, but given the restrictions they're sort of limited in what they can do.
Admiral Blair: We discussed that some during my meetings here and I think that the Indonesian security forces, the police and the TNI certainly are the right ones to pursue potential terrorist organizations here in Indonesia.
I think the main ways that we can assist are a sort of handoff of intelligence information that we may receive, those activities outside of the Indonesian area which are coming this way, and we have done some of that. In addition, we can I think conduct some exercises in which we work on some of the international aspects of combating terrorism, working across borders, pursuing maritime targets from one area of the water to another and how you do those sorts of handoffs. So it's that sort of assistance that I think could be used. But I think the Indonesian armed forces and security forces have a lot of capability to do the job here.
Question: Does your governments restrictions on the military relationship with the TNI limit your cooperation with Indonesia?
Admiral Blair: We can participate with the TNI in missions which are in our joint interest and counterterrorism is one of those so we can cooperate in those areas, in that area. What we are not going to do is have a full, across-the-board relationship that includes the full range of mutual education and bilateral exercises and port visits of the nature that we have with countries like Australia or Korea right now. It's a selective relationship.
I've got time for about two more questions.
Question: Can you give us some assessment of how effective the Indonesians have been in following up any leads you may have given them on terrorist activities?
Admiral Blair: I'm not going to comment on the current ongoing operations.
Question: Can you tell us something about the cooperation between Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia in ensuring security in the Malacca Straits?
Admiral Blair: The cooperation among those countries in the Malacca Straits has been I would say effective but not totally effective. The number of incidents of armed robbery and piracy have spiked earlier this year. It's now gone down some so it's not a 100 percent effective system that is really getting completely on top of the piracy and sea robbery threats, so I think it has a ways to go.
Question: Please describe the terrorist threat to shipping in the Straits of Malacca?
Admiral Blair: Ever since the attack on the USS Cole in Yeman I think the terrorist organizations in the world have realized that ships can be a target. If you look at the Tamil Sea Tiger attacks on Sri Lankan shipping, you realize the vulnerability of ships when they're either in port or in constricted waters. So it's something that we take seriously and that we think needs to be worked on. In fact we are allocating some Navy assets to protecting certain shipping that's important to us as it goes through these waters, in addition to working with Indonesia and Malaysia and Singapore on that. That same thing, just an extra measure of protection that we think is prudent.
Thanks very much.